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The pain of birthday parties

March 31, 2012
By SUMMER WALLACE-MINGER , Weirton Daily Times

I hate birthday parties.

I used to be the all-time champion birthday party hostess. I did themes; I hired clowns; I spent obscene amounts of money. Once, I did a tea party, including renting table linens and a punch fountain (pretty lights!) and, another year, I threw a Halloween-themed party, complete with haunted house decor, eyeballs in the fruit punch and costumed guests. Then there was the year we took the entire extended family up to the Pittsburgh Zoo and had a party that incorporated a private live animal show.

I stressed; I fussed; I fretted; I burned out. It got to the point where I actually dreaded my children's birthdays, because the party had to be better and more unique and just more. I was spending more and more money, and the Long Suffering Husband - legendary for his thriftiness - was getting closer and closer to a stroke.

So we switched gears, and, now, the children get a special day to themselves, with trips to museums, sporting events or just shopping. To the LSH's dismay, it still comes with a hefty price tag. But we get to relax, have fun and enjoy our children. That's worth any price, so he can just be quiet and open up the wallet.

My sister, Foo-Dog's children are a lot younger than mine, so she's still stuck in birthday party hell.

When I was throwing my kids' parties, I was always too stressed to notice how miserable they were for the adult guests. (My dad, Grampy Grumpy, often bails on parties, with the logic that he paid for the gift and sent Grandmama, so he's not obligated to go.)

Recently, Foo-Dog threw a party at Chuck E. Cheese. Oh. My. Godiva.

Ever read Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy"? He and his spirit guide, Virgil, roll through hell, purgatory and heaven. In hell, there are nine levels, with the ninth as the worst.

Chuck E. Cheese is the ninth level of birthday hell.

Only a sociopath with a serious bent would enjoy the soothing sounds of screaming children and cheesy disco remakes, constantly flashing lights and disco balls and crowds so large and packed that it feels like you're dirty dancing with complete strangers. The food isn't a saving grace, either.

And then there's the tunnels. It's like a giant hamster run, only for small children who pretend not to hear you when you tell them to get down here, it's time for cake, and by God, they had better get down here because you paid for this - for your child to have an assembly-line party alongside eight or 10 other kids, all of whom are doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. But, y'know, it's their special day.

Of course, Fatty Lumpkins got lost in the tunnels. I ended up swimming through a sea of children, peering through the occasional window and yelling for him. Meanwhile, he looked out at me and laughed his little heiney off, because he knew there was no way I was wiggling into those tunnels, which were swaying alarmingly under the assault of a rugrat army.

"Fats, if you don't get down here, I will make you one sorry child."

He laughed.

"You're going to miss the cake." I was glad Foo-Dog had procured her own cake. After the pizza - burned and doused in grease - I didn't want to see what the kitchen would do to baked goods.

He smirked at me, secure in his plastic fortress.

"You'll miss presents," I sing-songed.

This sparked his interest and he started crawling toward the exit. Fatty had to navigate some heavy traffic among the other rugrats, so I reached it first.

He scrambled out. "Did you buy him socks?" The boys hate it when I buy them socks and underwear, so I buy them for all their special occasions.

"Of course I did."

"Did you wrap his real present in socks?" I had done this to Fatty, and he was flabbergasted until he realized an action hero was beneath the hated underwear.

"Did you doubt?"

He gave an evil laugh, took my hand and toddled alongside to festivities.

Me and Fatty: Two of a kind.

(Wallace-Minger is The Weirton Daily Times community editor and can be contacted at She is a Weirton resident.)

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